Why Good Strategies Fail—It’s Not a Game, but Somebody Better be Keeping Score!


In my last blog I tackled one of the key topics in a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, Why good strategies fail, lessons for the C-suite[1], that really resonated with me; Executive Level Sponsorship.

Now that we have discussed how to get sponsorship early on in the project, I want to talk about how you keep the right level of engagement throughout the lifecycle of a project and ensure the right people stay focused on the right areas.

shutterstock_149276888With the charter in place, it is time to put some process around how to make it a reality. A strong governance model is the right way to approach this.

“The senior team needs to be involved in the critical few initiatives that have been identified as top priority. This includes ensuring clear accountability and transparency, so the whole organization understands the priority,” states Jeff Austin, vice president strategy planning, DuPont Pioneer[1]. To this point, every governance model should have at least three distinct levels:

  • Executive Board
  • Steering Committee
  • Project Management

Furthermore, each of these levels needs to have the following items defined and agreed to before it can be put into effective use:

  • Mission Statement
  • Members
  • Meeting Frequency
  • Score Card Template
  • Advantages

This rigor helps all members understand why they are there and how this is going to help the program and business.

One of the most important items to define before setting up each level of the governance model is the Score Card Template. This will form the foundation of each governance meeting and allow those attending, or reviewing after the meeting, the get an accurate snapshot of where the project is.

It is also worth keeping in mind that each level in the governance model will be focused on a different level of detail and that the template should take account of this. At the very least, a scorecard template should have the following items:

  • Action item status tracker
  • Key Issues & Risks
  • Updated Project Timeline
  • Key Decisions
  • Key Achievement
  • Target Achievements for Next Meeting

At all times during the project, don’t forget that perception is often taken as reality.  Don’t underestimate the importance of the project team and stakeholders seeing the level of engagement from the executive board.

Robert Tartaglia, managing director, managed operations and services for Allianz, an insurance company, sees a key role for a C-suite executive as “being the very visible person who stands in front of an audience and explains the importance of the strategy, and thereby being seen as drivers and individuals supportive of the strategy.”[1]

To achieve this your project manager, supported by your technology partner, should pick key milestones within the project where the executive board should meet, on-site, with the project team. The executive board should listen to some of the more day to day focused challenges and motivate the team by reviewing the charter, encouraging them that they are on track and reminding them of the importance to the business of what they are making happen.